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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy. Although the book series is extremely popular with tweens and even younger elementary-school readers, the movie may be too dark and violent for even mature tween readers. The violence includes deaths by stabbing, shooting, animal attacks, and poison, as well as torture, threats, and explosions. The language includes "s--t," and one bleeped out use of "f--k" and other expletives. There's more romance in Catching Fire as Katniss struggles with her feelings for both Peeta and Gale. Alcohol is present in a few scenes (Katniss takes a drink), and there are references to painkiller addicts. Katniss is a flawed but excellent role model for teen girls, and the movie offers many discussion points about politics, war, feminism, and materialism.
This is the stunning sequel to the hotly anticipated "Hunger Games," and man I gotta say, this movie is almost, if not as good as the original. My goal is to help you make an informed choice on whether or not to let your kid watch "Catching Fire," so let's go over it.
Katniss has returned from the horrifying Games. She is home. She should be happy. But nothing is the way it should be. Gale, Katniss's longtime friend, holds her at an icy distance. What is worse, the districts don't believe Katniss and Peeta's love story, and it is driving many of them to rebel. President Snow himself has threatened Katniss's family and friends if she does not subdue the districts. The upcoming Victory Tour may be her last chance. If Katniss doesn't convince them that she is madly in love with Peeta, the consequences will be horrific. But can anyone catch fire?
Positive Messages:4/5, This movie has many of the same messages as the original, (loyalty, courage, selflessness,) but it adds on it a little, deepening the horrors of the Capitol, as well as showing more of the pain that the districts are in. It also raises a provocative question, is it better to sacrifice yourself for your loved ones, or your loved ones for the greater good?
Positive Role Models:4/5, Katniss and Peeta continue to be our courageous and selfless heroes, but we see some others as well. Gale is a selfless and good friend to Katniss, and he never fails to tell her when she is wrong. Prim, as well as Katniss's mother add their quiet strength and bravery as well.
Violence:3/5, While this movie's violence is, in my opinion, less bloody than the original, it is more intense and more frequent. During the Victory Tour, several people are shot. After the Tour, peacekeepers are sent to District 12, and they burn a large building down. in one graphic scene, a character is whipped and you see his bloody back. Once the Games begin, there is the usual training center knife and spear throwing, (although this time they use holograms instead of dummys.) A beloved character is graphically beaten to death in front of Katniss, and his face is covered in blood. A character at the beginning of the Games is electrocuted, some are gassed by a creepy fog, there are a few jump scares in a scene where a pack of mutant monkeys attack, a character's throat is torn open, some other tributes emerge from the forest literally covered in blood. During a fight scene, a character is hit with a throwing ax, (impact is not graphically shown.) Near the end, two characters are struck by lightning.
Drinking/Drug/Smoking:2/5, One character is clearly an alcoholic. After receiving some terrible news, Katniss goes to her mentor's house and drinks. Two characters are referred to as "The Morphlings," because they are addicted to the painkiller.
Swearing:2/5, There is more language in this movie than in the original. Other than the normal use of "hell' and "damn", there is one use of "shit," one of "son of a bitch" and during the Caesar Flickerman interview, Joanna, a fellow tribute, uses the F-word several times,(she is bleeped out, however.)
Sexy Stuff:2/5, Katniss kisses both Gale and Peeta in this movie,(one time with Peeta is pretty passionate.) Katniss also meets Finnick Odaire, a fellow tribute and the Capitol's sex symbol, and he makes several suggestive comments to her.
To sum it all up, if you let your kid watch "Hunger Games," then they should be able to handle this movie. The violence is more tense but less bloody than the original, (the only two bloody scenes are when Gale is whipped and a beloved character is beaten to death.) The drinking level is low, and the two morphling addicts don't actually take any drugs during the movie. Although there is some swearing, it is really only a few times, and there is nothing that your kids won't hear at school. While there is some kissing, it is only with good, lovable people, and the suggestive comments never go beyond words. So why wait? This is a wonderful movie if you have already seen the first one, it may just be too mature for anyone under 14.
I just saw this movie with my daughter (10). There are some political concepts that were over her head. My biggest fear was the violence. Reviews from this website allowed us to go and enjoy this well written, directed, and produced movie together.
With respect to the violence, it is balanced with heaping doses of humanity and empathy. It has a profound impact on the characters when people are injured or killed. For me that is the big difference between this and other movies. We confront death (even when you're 10) but how it's registered is important.
As a father of three daughters I find Katniss to be the only worthy fictional female role model I can think of. She has lots of humility, empathy, and humanity. She is also strong, courageous, intelligent, self-sacrificing, and resourceful.
The violence is not more than one sees on prime time TV and the quick editing makes it palatable. One character is an alcoholic but this is presented as tragic more than glamorous.
Overall thoroughly entertaining series of movies that we will enjoy as we grow.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE picks up shortly after The Hunger Games ends: Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is experiencing post-traumatic stress as she tries to go back to a semi-normal life in District 12. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) is still hurt by the fact Katniss was only pretending to be in love with him during the Games. But when menacing President Snow (Donald Sutherland) visits Katniss at home, she threatens the well-being of everyone she loves, including best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth), if she doesn't make everyone believe she and Peeta are deliriously in love during a Victory Tour of the Districts. Increasingly threatened by Katniss' popularity among the starving masses, Snow eventually decides to make the 75th Annual Hunger Games a unique one -- with the 24 Tributes selected among the living victors. Sent once again to the Arena, Katniss and Peeta must make alliances with an eclectic group of former Hunger Games winners to stay alive.
Is It Any Good?
This sequel manages to be gripping and emotional, despite the need for more exposition and new characters. Middle installments of trilogies are typically the toughest to master, and with the exception of The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towersand a few others, often the least interesting; luckily for fans of the international publishing phenomenon, that's not the case here. Director Francis Lawrence ably picks up the helm from Gary Ross and keeps a strong balance between the character development, the socio-political overtones (more of Sutherland's brilliantly acted cold-hearted oligarch!), and the violent action of the Arena. Luckily for him, his star isn't just another pretty Hollywood starlet, she's an Academy Award winner who can carry a franchise with both vulnerability and strength. And Lawrence's off-screen friendship with Hutcherson shines through in their on-screen chemistry, which is as sweet and gentle as author Suzanne Collins describes.
The film is incredibly faithful to the story, although purists may quibble about some missing moments in District 12 before Katniss and Peeta head to the Quarter Quell. The story provides more of the triangle between Katniss and her two love interests -- budding revolutionary best friend Gale and the steadfastly kind and charming Peeta. The returning ensemble is all back and clearly relishing their characters, like Stanley Tucci, Lenny Kravitz, and Elizabeth Banks, as a talk show host, handler, and stylist, respectively. The new additions to the supporting cast also include veteran actors Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer as fellow Tributes Beetee and Wiress and Philip Seymour Hoffman as new Gamemaster Plutarch Heavensbee, who are all fabulous in their secondary roles. Jena Malone is perfectly cast as the confrontational and angry young Tribute Johanna Mason, and Sam Claflin may not have the American accent down, but he's still fine as the hot and brave Finnick Odair. Ultimately Catching Fire is Katniss' story, and the audience will once again be grateful that Lawrence is so effortlessly natural as one of young adult literature's most memorable heroines.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the political messages in Catching Fire. Why are Katniss and Peeta so horrified when they go on the tour of the Districts? How is President Snow a totalitarian ruler? What does the movie say about political systems where a tiny few have all the wealth?
How does Katniss compare to other female protagonists in young adult books and movies? What are her views on love, marriage, and kids, and how are they tied to the unimaginably dire circumstances she endures?
Is it different to see violence rather than to read about it? Do you think the book and the movie are appropriate for different age-groups?